"Please Don't Leave Us!" NYers Desperate for Help -- Latest Sandy Updates, What You Can Do
This post has been updated.
Days after the initial devastation from Sandy, the city still lies in danger of a second humanitarian crisis.
Residents of the worst-hit low-lying areas like Staten Island, Breezy Point, Queens (which was devastated by a fire) and Long Beach, are recovering from the shock of losing homes and even loved ones to the storm’s power--but now they’re in danger of not having enough services. And getting those services is complicated because at the moment, a gas and transportation shortage is crippling the city.
Whether it’s residents trapped on the high floors of powerless high-rises or communities stranded by lack of transportation, the test of the next few days will prove whether the worst of the storm was indeed over this weekend the city took care of its own, or the disaster escalated unimaginably.
It’s no wonder that at this crucial juncture residents are getting vocally aggravated that officials are insisting on putting on the annual New York City Marathon, which will divert resources and energy from the clean up efforts. The generators being used for the Marathon alone could power "400 houses on Staten Island," one blogger notes.
Many social media users offered suggestions along these lines:
Instead of a marathon, how about athletes run up stairs of high rises w/no power, carrying 2 gallon jugs of water for each resident?— Barry Graubart (@Barry Graubart) 1351817418.0
Suzanne Reisman had strong words for the mayor in a blog post:
The Marathon is not only a logistical nightmare, but it is a slap in the face to people who live here. It shows that the mayor cares more about tourists and their dollars than the citizens and our long-term contributions to the city. Yes, the Marathon may bring in some dollars, but in the long-term, without a functioning city, we lose so much more. This is actually an immoral race at this point.
Sensing the bad vibes, the New York Road Runners Club has created a "Race to Recover" fund for hurricane victims. And as per the online brainstorming, some Marathon runners are indeed going rogue--they will use the race route to deliver aid and volunteer in areas like Staten Island and Queens.
Stranded in Staten Island
Today, Staten Island is perhaps one of the most vulnerable spots. Called the “epicenter” of casualties from the storm, the island suffered physical destruction wreaked by Sandy that has been followed by despair. Read this passage from the Daily News article on the subject:
Staten Island has been the scene of some of the most heartbreaking storm-related devastation, especially on the South Shore where numerous trapped residents had to be rescued. Hundreds of homes — from multimillion-dollar mansions to modest bungalows — have been damaged and dozens of streets are impassable due to downed trees and buckled roads.
As such, federal and local officials heard an earful from residents Thursday.
“Please don’t leave us,” a weeping Donna Solli pleaded to Sen. Chuck Schumer in front of her damaged Neptune St. home. “I live alone down here.”
Schumer hugged Solli, a Transportation Department worker, and tried to comfort her. “I know what you’re going through, sweetheart,” he said.
Minutes later, Joe and Angela Fugel approached the senior senator with tears in their eyes. Owners of A&J Police Equipment & Uniforms, their 27-year-old store on Cleveland Ave. near Great Kills Harbor is now in ruins.
"Everything's gone — come look please!" she cried out. "I lost everything — my livelihood!"
After showing Schumer the wreckage, she turned to a reporter and said, “We need so much help."
NBC’s Ann Curry did a segment that’s along the same lines.
In other areas that suffered in similar ways to Staten Island, like Long Beach out on Long Island (a favorite summer spot for many New Yorkers, including me) the Rockaways, and Breezy Point, are in the same marooned boat.
From the same Daily News piece:
Queens lawmakers also blasted what they termed the outer-borough "Katrina." As of Thursday afternoon, 92,788 were still out of power in Queens.
“I understand there may be priority locations (for restoring power), but there aren’t priority boroughs,” said state Sen. Tony Avella, a Democrat. “I have tens of thousands of people without power in my district alone.”
Sen. Malcolm Smith inspected the damage in Far Rockaway and said, “I’m looking at a small Katrina out here.”
A blog post at Occupy Duniya about the Rockaways is totally heartbreaking. She concludes:
The underlying problem is that after getting frustrated by the mild opportunities the bike-able city gave me to volunteer, I decided to go out to Far Rockaway to help my friend Heather out, because cleaning her flooded house sounded like a good, decent, concrete thing I could do to lend a hand after the storm. It wasn’t until I drove down Rockaway Boulevard looking at burnt down buildings and piles of damp furniture on the sidewalks. It wasn’t until I asked someone what they needed specifically that I could get them from our stash of donations and he looked at me half-proud, half-embarrassed and said “Everything. We have nothing.” That’s when my brain exploded.
Hard-to-reach in high-rises:
Yesterday we mentioned elderly residents trapped in high rises in the power-deprived areas of downtown NYC.
The problem persists. A New Yorker reporter, Alex Koppleman, went down to Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side:
They are still there, without power, water, or any visible help from any government agency—city, state, or federal—other than some people from the city Housing Authority who’d come by to pump water out of flooded basements. Everywhere you walk in the neighborhood, fire hydrants have been turned into makeshift wells, with lines of people waiting, bottles and jugs in hand.
“It’s a twenty-four-hour operation,” Carmen Perez joked, pointing to the people standing at one of the hydrants. Perez, who said she’d opted not to evacuate because she lives with her parents, who are ill, was meeting a friend who’d driven in from Brooklyn to bring her bottled water and food.
One resident, Nino, who said he works as a doorman nearby, had heard a rumor that the National Guard was coming with water, food, and supplies. We walked together through the complex for a couple of blocks, to where they were supposed to be. Along the way, he showed me a large uprooted tree that had fallen along the path where he would have been walking to work during the storm, which his boss had asked him to do—Nino had, luckily, refused. Just beyond that was the spot where he’d heard the National Guard would be setting up. No one was there.
One problem facing poorer residents? Electronic food stamp cards aren’t working.
The Nation featured a video of activists working to help residents of Chinatown who were also feeling neglect. The video discusses issues of income inequality and gentrification that have fed into the problems caused by Sandy:
Future crises loom:
An email blast from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility warns that water is going to be the big crisis in the coming weeks--because it already was a crisis.
Combined sewage overflows from Sandy turned many Eastern Seaboard waters into fetid soup. But it gets worse—
- Superfund sites were inundated and released massive amounts of toxic material;
- Toxic fracking water may have been released from holding ponds into streams in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
As a result, we are awash in waters not healthy to even touch.
Environmental damage will become the biggest issue after and if humanitarian concerns are taken care of.
Then there is the issue of shock doctrine style private takeovers of public jobs, as is already being pushed in Philadelphia. The principle of the shock doctrine or disaster capitalism" as explained by Naomi Klein is that private companies use the aftermath of these disasters to take over more and more of our resources and services. Watch out for this in Sandy's wake.
How you can help:
Here are some places to help. There's the American Red Cross. Other local organizations that are great are being powered by recovers.org sites. There's Staten Island Recovers and Red Hook Recovers. As demonstrated by the video above, CAAV is doing amazing work in Chinatown.
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice has a page listing partner organizations, including CAAV, that need help. Occupy Wall Street has a great Occupy Sandy page set up listing drop-off sites around the city and needs for food and supplies. They also have a page with updates from volunteers around the area, including stories of official neglect and local aid.
Tonight, Jersey boys Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi will headline a telethon for Hurricane relief.